Calendar Girls review: Newcomer actresses make this work despite Madhur Bhandarkar

Gayatri Gauri

Sep 25, 2015 13:46:12 IST

Director Madhur Bhandarkar’s films — Chandni Bar, Page 3, Traffic Signal and Fashion — have collectively won 11 national awards, including those for acting, script and direction. Does that make Bhandarkar a master at his craft? Far from it. What they do, however, note is Bhandarkar’s special talent for spotting stories with potential in fascinating worlds that are great settings, full of pulp, sleaze, glamour and glitz.

 Calendar Girls review: Newcomer actresses make this work despite Madhur Bhandarkar

A still from Calendar Girls.

And to quote Bhandarkar himself from the cameo he has in his latest film, Calendar Girls, “Mujhe hero ke nakhre nahin jhelne isliye main heroine-oriented films banata hoon.” (“I don’t want to deal with a hero’s tantrums. That’s why I make heroine-oriented films.”)

This is, of course, said in jest, but nevertheless there is probably some truth in the statement. It may also be the reason for his earlier films working despite their limitations. Perhaps because he didn’t have to massage egos, the films reflected some truth and hard-hitting realities.

However, past success in scandal storytelling has now become a lazy formula for Bhandarkar. The proof of that is Calendar Girls: A half-heady cocktail of Fashion and Page 3, mixed together by a bartender from Bhatinda. Both those films were about ambitious, small town women who took different journeys in order to establish themselves professionally and weathered the outcomes borne of their choices. An identical theme is repeated in Calendar Girls. Only this time, there are more women and yes, more skin and sleaze.

Like any Bhandarkar film, the title itself — Calendar Girls — leaves little to the imagination. So you have five, hot, half-naked girls sprawled not just on a calendar, but in practically every scene. What you may not be prepared for is the fact that these newcomers can act and how! So yes, the camera grabs every chance to position itself strategically while the women uninhibitedly flaunt every physical asset. But all is forgotten when performances come to the fore.

The five knockouts are: Hyderabad’s Nandita (Akanksha Puri), Pakistan’s Nazneen (Avan Modi), Goa’s Sharon (Kyra Dutt), Rohtak’s Mayuri (Ruhi Singh) and Kolkata’s Paroma (Satarupa Pyne). They meet in Mumbai, to shoot for the most happening calendar designed for an industrialist, Kumar (Suhel Seth), obviously modelled after the flamboyant Vijay Mallya and his Kingfisher calendar.

Interestingly, the film wraps up the calendar shoot (with Rohit Roy playing photographer) within the first 10 minutes and quickly moves on to three months that follow after the girls have shot to fame. The story follows each one’s career and personal life graph, challenges and choices. Predictably, it’s no fairy tale and full of dark betrayal and callous men.

The script despite all its crassness, unimaginative situations, clichés and easy flights of fancy, does keep one hooked with constant drama and is far better than Bhandarkar’s last film, Heroine.

Nandita is miraculously swept off her feet by Prince Charming from Jodhpur. What follows is a cliché, albeit with a twist. Mayuri, the most convincing and enthusiastic of the lot, hires a manager and goes all guns blazing towards Bollywood. Mayuri and her manager, Tiwari, make for some good moments together. Paroma gets involved with old flame, Pinaki (Keith Sequeira, good), who is involved in IPL cricket and match fixing. This leads her to an unintentionally funny situation.

Nazneen faces boycott as part of a totally unbelievable anti-Pakistan protest and falls into darker traps that involve a heavily made-up broker (played by Mita Vashishth). Sharon, equally miraculously and hilariously, discovers new talents and has the more positive experience of the lot.

Calendar Girls works purely because of its debutante actresses, along with their male co-actors. Simply put, their performances rock

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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2015 13:46:12 IST